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Esa-Pekka Salonen

Publisher: Chester Music

Nyx (2011)
Commissioned by Radio France, Carnegie Hall, Atlanta Symphony, Barbican Centre and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Publisher
Chester Music Ltd
Category
Orchestra
Year Composed
2011
Duration
17 Minutes
Programme Note
Nyx is my return to the genre of pure orchestral music since Helix (2005). It employs a large orchestra, and has exposed concertante parts for solo clarinet and the horn section.
Rather than utilizing the principle of continuous variation of material, as is the case mostly in my recent music, Nyx behaves rather differently. Its themes and ideas essentially keep their properties throughout the piece while the environment surrounding them keeps changing constantly. Mere whispers grow into roar; an intimate line of the solo clarinet becomes a slowly breathing broad melody of tutti strings at the end of the 18-minute arch of Nyx.

I set myself a particular challenge when starting the composition process, something I hadn't done earlier: to write complex counterpoint for almost one hundred musicians playing tutti at full throttle without losing clarity of the different layers and lines; something that Strauss and Mahler so perfectly mastered. Not an easy task, but a fascinating one. I leave it to the listener to judge how well I succeeded.

Nyx is a shadowy figure in Greek mythology. At the very beginning of everything there's a big mass of dark stuff called Chaos, out of which comes Gaia or Ge, the Earth, who gives birth (spontaneously!) to Uranus, the starry heaven, and Pontus, the sea. Nyx (also sometimes known as Nox) is supposed to have been another child of Gaia, along with Erebus. The union of Nyx and Erebus produces Day.

Another version says that Cronos (as Time) was there from the beginning. Chaos came from Time. Nyx was present as a sort of membrane surrounding Chaos, which had Phanes (Light) at its centre. The union of Nyx with Phanes produced Heaven & Earth.

She is an extremely nebulous figure altogether; we have no sense of her character or personality. It is this very quality that has long fascinated me and made me decide to name my new orchestral piece after her.

I’m not trying to describe this mythical goddess in any precise way musically. However, the almost constant flickering and rapid changing of textures and moods as well as a certain elusive character of many musical gestures may well be related to the subject.

I have always enjoyed the unrivalled dynamic range of a large symphony orchestra, but Nyx seems to take a somewhat new direction from my earlier orchestral music: there are many very delicate and light textures, chiaroscuro instead of details bathing in clear direct sunlight. I guess this is symptomatic of growing older as we realize there are no simple truths, no pure blacks and whites but an endless variety of half shades.

Nyx was commissioned by Radio France, the Barbican Centre, Atlanta Symphony, Carnegie Hall and the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE. It had its first performance in Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, in February 2011 in the final concert of the Festival Présences. The Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France was conducted by the composer.


Esa-Pekka Salonen
1 October, 2011



  • Ensemble
    Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Soloist(s)
    Leila Josefowicz
    Conductor
    Esa-Pekka Salonen
    Deutsche Grammophon:
Performances
Date
Title
  • 28 MAY 2016
    Royal Opera House, London
    Royal Ballet
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

    Other Dates:
    31 May; 3,10,11 June - Royal Opera House, London
  • 07 MAY 2016
    Santa Cruz, CA
    Santa Cruz Symphony
    Daniel Stewart, conductor

    Other Dates:
    8 May - Santa Cruz, CA
  • 02 MAY 2016
    United Kingdom
    Royal Opera House
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
  • 02 JUL 2015
    Creative Chair
    Tonhalle, Zurich, Switzerland
    Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra
    Manfred Honeck, conductor

    Other Dates:
    3 July - Tonhalle, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 30 APR 2015
    Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, US
    San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
    Esa Pekka Salonen, conductor

    Other Dates:
    1-3 May - Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, US
  • 29 APR 2015
    The Great Hall, Moscow Conservatory, Russia
    Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Hannu Lintu, conductor
  • 16 APR 2015
    European Tour
    Dublin, Ireland
    New York Philharmonic
    Alan Gilbert, conductor

    Other Dates:
    21 April - Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Netherlands
    17 April - Barbican, London, UK
    25 April - Philharmonie de Paris, France
    1 May - Kölner Philharmonie, Germany
  • 16 APR 2015
    Nyx Country Premiere
    National Concert Hall, Dublin, Ireland
    New York Philharmonic
    Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano; Alan Gilbert, conductor
  • 19 MAR 2015
    Avery Fisher Hall, New York
    New York Philharmonic Orchestra
    Alan Gilbert, conductor

    Other Dates:
    20,24 March - Avery Fisher Hall, New York
    21 March - Tilles Center, Brookville, NY
  • 19 SEP 2014
    Gulbenkian Hall, Lisbon, Portugal
    Gulbenkian Orchestra
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
  • 01 MAY 2014
    Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, USA
    Berkeley Symphony Orchestra
    Kelley O'Connor, mezzo-soprano; Joana Caneiro, conductor
  • 10 APR 2014
    Symphony Hall, Chicago, USA
    Chicago Symphony Orchestra
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

    Other Dates:
    13,12,11 April - Symphony Hall, Chicago, USA
  • 24 AUG 2013
    Berwaldhallen, Stockholm, Sweden
    Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
  • 25 JAN 2013
    Denmark
    Finnish Radio S.O.
    Hannu Lintu, conductor
  • 25 JAN 2013
    Musiikkitalo, Finland
    Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Hannu Lintu, conductor
  • 07 DEC 2012
    Los Angeles, CA
    Los Angeles Philharmonic
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

    Other Dates:
    8,9 December - Los Angeles, CA
  • 07 DEC 2012
    Los Angeles, CA
    Los Angeles Philharmonic
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

    Other Dates:
    8,9 December - Los Angeles, CA
  • 07 DEC 2012
    Walt Disney Hall, Los Angeles
    Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

    Other Dates:
    8,9 December -
  • 07 JUN 2012
    Nyx Country Premiere
    Munich, Germany
    Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

    Other Dates:
    8 June - Munich, Germany
    10 June - Konzerthaus Dortmund, Germany
    9 June - Théâtre des Champs-Élysées , Paris, France
  • 07 JUN 2012
    Munich, Germany
    Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

    Other Dates:
    8 June - Munich, Germany
    10 June - Dortmund, Germany
  • 12 APR 2012
    Boston, MA
    Boston Symphony Orchestra
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
  • 12 APR 2012
    USA
    Boston Symphony Orchestra

    Other Dates:
    13,14 April - USA
  • 07 APR 2012
    Miami Beach, FL
    New World Symphony
  • 07 APR 2012
    Miami, Florida, US
    New World Symphony Orchestra
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
  • 29 MAR 2012
    Kimmel Centre, Philadelphia
    Philadelphia Orchestra
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

    Other Dates:
    30,31 March - Kimmel Centre, Philadelphia
  • 29 MAR 2012
    Philadelphia, PA
    The Philadelphia Orchestra
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
  • 05 NOV 2011
    Nyx New York Premiere
    Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
    Atlanta Symphony
    Robert Spano, conductor
  • 27 OCT 2011
    Nyx US Premiere
    Atlanta, US
    Atlanta Symphony
    Robert Spano, conductor

    Other Dates:
    29 October - Atlanta, US
    3,4 November - Carnegie Hall, New York
  • 03 OCT 2011
    Atlanta, GA
    Atlanta Symphony
    Robert Spano, conductor

    Other Dates:
    27,29,4 October - Atlanta, GA
  • 19 FEB 2011
    Giro
    LA Variations
    D'OM LE VRAI SENS Country Premiere
    Nyx World Premiere
    Presence Festival
    Theatre du Chatelet Paris FRANCE
    Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

Reviews
The Greek goddess of the night is portrayed in a modern orchestral spectacular, one with enough content not to be just another skilful exercise in texture. At its best, the music has the most articulate light touch — the murmuring horns, the lyrical clarinet solos, the fleeting strings and flutes like racing high-altitude winds. Salonen’s Nyx could give Don Juan and Don Quixote, the subjects of two of Strauss’s tone poems, a run for their money.
Financial Times,4/20/2015
The dense orchestration was dappled with soupçons of indigenous music, folk, noir, Harryhausen Hollywood and French impressionism.
The Spectator,4/20/2015
Nyx by Finnish composer/conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen summoned up the eponymous Greek goddess in sinuously seductive clarinets...when it came to spinning a diaphanous rustling texture, or making a huge string chord that faded by infinitesimal degrees (as happened very strikingly in Salonen’s piece) they were fabulous.
Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph,4/20/2015
This 20-minute piece, fabulously scored and never less than ear-tickling, was called Nyx after the Greek goddess whom Salonen describes as "an extremely nebulous figure". His music did anything but nebulise her. With virtuosic parts for solo clarinet and the entire horn section, and a stylistic eclecticism anchored in Ravel, Messiaen and Stravinsky, it was lush, enjoyable and gnomic: a succession of hugely contrasting moods, each brilliantly evoked but without suggesting why one preceded or followed another.
Richard Morrison, The Times,4/20/2015
This is an eclectic, almost postmodern piece for a very large orchestra, full of stylistic allusion and dynamic twists, which somehow retains a unifying character and direction. The confidence with which it moves from quirky little slurs in the low strings to a full-on Latin percussion fest in a few bars is merely one striking example of the way Salonen’s score deftly reinvents itself in vivid ways.
Martin Kettle, The Guardian,4/19/2015
Richly textured, with layers of interlocking sound, Salonen’s work is tense at times, the resonant lows of the bass underscored by an impressive rumble from the percussion. From the speculative sounding pizzicato of the celli and bass to the crack of percussion calling to mind a cinematic chase scene, the orchestra’s sound is never less than resonant, the swiftly shifting textures smooth and controlled.
John Millar, Golden Plec,4/18/2015
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